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Special COVID-19 Update
I am using our newsletter outlet today to reach out to you and provide information about the COVID-19 virus and what it means in our community. In this difficult time, I encourage you to follow the guidance of our President and our Governor to avoid crowds over 10 people and to practice social distancing. Our office is following this guidance and so my staff and I will be working from home. I have been impressed with how our government and nonprofit leaders are stepping up to address this crisis. As I learn more about resources available, I will post updates on our Facebook page and will send out additional COVID-19 newsletter updates as updates accumulate. As we engage in social distancing, please be sure to reach out to your friends, family, and neighbors through phone calls and social media to keep our community connected.
Legislative Session Postponed
Yesterday morning, the Speaker announced that the 2020 Legislative Session would be postponed indefinitely. Our office will be closed to visitors until we are sure that we can operate safely. Please contact us by phone at 402-471-2615 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will continue to be at work and will do our best to answer your questions and needs through these means.
Bellevue Emergency Response
I attended an emergency response meeting yesterday morning with Bellevue city officials from various departments. At the time of the meeting they reported 0 cases in Bellevue and 0 cases in Sarpy County. They shared that the library and city departments remain open but they are asking people to use online and phone means whenever possible and asking people with symptoms to refrain from entering. This is subject to change as the situation changes rapidly. Departments are at work stocking supplies and setting up protocols to deal with city business while limiting exposure. Later today we are expecting a statement from the City of Bellevue that will be made available on the Bellevue YouTube Channel. Watch for that statement for updates on what is happening in Bellevue to address the crisis.
Governor’s Press Conference
The Governor held a press conference yesterday afternoon to discuss new relief measures and guidance. New guidance is to limit events to 10 people based on the CDC’s recommendation. Grocery stores will stay open. Schools are to transition to closing by Friday. New Unemployment Insurance rules for the emergency include the ability to apply for unemployment if you have been sent home from your work without pay or if you have reduced hours even if you have not been laid off.
Help for Workers
The best resource that we have at the state level to help workers is our unemployment insurance program. I spoke with the Department of Labor this morning about how they will be processing unemployment insurance claims. As of March 22, they will be processing claims for people who were sent home from work and are “underemployed”, meaning that they may return at a later date but are not currently working, in the same manner that they will processing claims for people who were laid off and will not be returning to work at all. Unemployment benefits are available now should someone get laid off from work entirely by the crisis. If you are still working but on reduced hours you should use the current Short Time Compensation plan (see here).
Our office is also tracking what is happening at the federal level to see what resources may be available to workers. A bill has passed in the House and is in the Senate. When we learn about additional resources available from the federal government we will post that information on our Facebook page.
Help for Businesses
The state is currently working with the Small Business Administration to ensure that emergency disaster loans will be available for Nebraska businesses. We will post updates when we have more information about the availability of these loans in Nebraska.
Bellevue Public Schools
Bellevue Public Schools has extended their closure following spring break with no tentative return date. They will re-evaluate every two weeks regarding return options. This closure includes all Bellevue Public Schools buildings, the Welcome Center and Lied Activity Center and the Kids’ Time program. This also means that activities, athletics, clubs, meetings and school dances are cancelled or postponed until a later date. As for graduating seniors and ceremonies, Superintendent Jeff Rippe is monitoring the situation and will make a call about graduation ceremonies at a later date. BPS also assures me that they are working on a plan to get food to our students who rely on the schools for breakfast and lunch. Watch for more details on the Bellevue Public Schools website linked here.
White House Briefing Call Tomorrow
Tomorrow morning I will join White House Senior Administration Officials for a briefing call about the virus with other state and local elected officials. I will share what I learn from the call on my Facebook page.
The Sarpy/Cass County Public Health website is frequently being updated with local information on the COVID-19 situation. You can find information about public gatherings, school closures, business closures and testing resources here. If you have traveled to China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan or Thailand within the past 2 weeks please complete the survey on the website to help the Department assess and control the situation.
Yesterday and today Sarpy County restricted access to in-person services. Many Sarpy County services like renewing your vehicle registration, paying your property taxes, property searches and paying traffic or court fines are available online. Like many other counties during this time, Sarpy is encouraging the use of online services whenever possible to contain the virus and decrease the chance of community spread. Please visit this link to access online Sarpy County services. Check out the Sarpy County website for updates on whether in-person services are available.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has set up a coronavirus information line that will allow residents to get answers to general questions and receive information on resources available. That number is (402) 552-6645. The information line’s hours of operation are 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. CST, 7 days a week. For more information visit the DHHS COVID-19 webpage here.
Nebraska Medicine also is keeping their website updated with community spread information and resources for health care providers here.
Lastly, the President in collaboration with the CDC has released general guidelines to keep people as safe and healthy as possible as we maneuver this difficult time. These guidelines include: staying home if you feel sick, staying home and away from others if you are an older person or a person with an underlying health condition, avoiding discretionary travel, avoiding social gatherings and practicing good hygiene. Additional recommendations can be found at the CDC’s website here.
More Details on How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance in Nebraska
To file a claim, you will first visit the Department of Labor website linked here. Once you’ve reached the homepage, you will see a box labeled “NEworks” on the left side. If you do not have an NEworks account you will be asked to set one up, but the process is quick and easy. After logging into your account or creating a new one, you will see two columns. On the left side will be “Unemployment Services”. Click there to proceed to the page where you can file a claim. The claim will ask for your basic information as well as if you have an estimated return to work date. The Department of Labor emphasized that this is one of the most important parts of the application because they base your benefits and status off of that date. If you are unsure of your return to work date, it may be helpful to contact your manager for their best estimate. I was told that some parts of the application have tricky wording, so if you have specific questions about the language you can call the Department’s main line at 402-471-2275. I’ve also attached the Unemployment Insurance Handbook from the Department which contains further information about reemployment services, eligibility and benefits. It is important to note that due to an influx in applications, it may take up to three weeks to process your claim. Again, if you are still working but on reduced hours you should use the current Short Time Compensation plan (see here).
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All the best,